As far as state park friends groups go, we’re pretty lucky. Why? We have the absolute best rangers you can ask for! 

We recently sat down with Superintendent Rob McGraw and Ranger Alyssa Coburn from Gorges State Park (GSP). Our board regularly works with the staff at the park but it’s nice to sit down and catch-up from time to time. For example, do you ever wonder which areas of the park are favorited by the rangers? We do and we were able to ask! 

We’re excited to share with you all we learned during the sitdowns so let’s start with Alyssa. Let’s let her do the introductions:

Alyssa has actually worked in state parks for many years, working her way up from a volunteer in various parks across the state. She even worked with now GSP Superintendent McGraw when he was superintendent at Mount Mitchell State Park. Her father was a park superintendent many years ago also so you could say serving in state parks is in her blood. 

Talking with Alyssa, it’s clear that she loves her job. All aspects bring her joy…take a listen. You can tell this is more than a job for her. 

We’ve been very lucky to have Alyssa as part of our efforts within the Friends of Gorges. She has been an essential part of our events, especially the Star Party. From reaching out to event partners to securing space and event supplies, Alyssa has been a true supporting asset. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we had to cancel the 2020 Star Party but we have high hopes that we’ll be able to reschedule the event for 2021. 

Beyond the Star Party, Coburn has been integral in the completion of the family-friendly, TRACK Trail. This easy-to-complete trail features incredible views and educational stops for kids. There’s even a mini rock wall on the trail! The best part is with Alyssa’s effort, the TRACK Trail can be completed by those who don’t feel comfortable taking on the trail to Rainbow Falls, which is a little more challenging. One of the goals of the Friends of Gorges is to make GSP more accessible for everyone and this trail was a large step in that direction. 

One thing we’ve always been curious about that we were finally able to ask Alyssa and Rob is what area of the park is really special to them. Essentially, what is their favorite part of the park. Funny enough, both Alyssa and Rob said they love the special backcountry feel of the Canebrake Trail out of the Frozen Creek trailhead. This 5-mile one-way trail takes the adventurer down to where the Foothills Trail comes in at Lake Jocassee. The suspension bridge featured in that area makes it a very special place to the backcountry enthusiast. 

Of the 8,000 acres that is GSP, Rob pointed out that most visitors see only about 50 of those acres when traveling to Rainbow Falls. There is so much backcountry and with that comes an abundance of unique wildlife and vegetation. Alyssa has really enjoyed working with the wildlife and while she acknowledges that her role is different from that of a wildlife officer, she enjoys talking with hunters when she gets the opportunity. Hunting is not allowed in the state park but a large part of the western boundary of GSP abuts the Toxaway Gamelands so every now and then hunters unwittingly end up in some of the backcountry areas of the park. Education is such a big part of her job on many levels. 

We’re just thrilled we got to spend some one-on-one time with Alyssa and Rob we’re so grateful they shared some of their knowledge with us. Every day, we’re reminded just how lucky we are to be a part of the success of such an outstanding wilderness. 

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